OPINION: Daniel Defense, a guerilla marketer’s lethal dream

Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense is known for its guerilla marketing. This ad, made to run in a mans bathroom, was noted by a Congressional committee

Credit: Congressional committee

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense is known for its guerilla marketing. This ad, made to run in a mans bathroom, was noted by a Congressional committee

Credit: Congressional committee

It’s been said that firearms are phallic symbols, that a gun’s steel barrel is simply a psychological projection of the owner.

But the good folks at Daniel Defense, the Georgia weaponry maker, know that contention is backwards. Actually, the phallus is an AR-15 symbol.

Or more precisely, a DD5V1 symbol, which is Daniel Defense’s beefier version of the AR-15.

Daniel Defense created ads for men’s bathrooms asking, “Wouldn’t you rather be holding a DD5V1?”

I suppose it was a rhetorical question. But since you’re asking, let me ponder it for a few seconds.

Daniel Defense is a master of guerilla marketing to peddle its pricey products. Appeals to manliness, God and military are simply avenues to move merch.

In May, right before a twisted 18-year-old entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 19 children and two adults with a Daniel Defense gun, the company posted an online advertisement it thought to be charming, thought-provoking or, most probably, attention-grabbing.

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Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

Combined ShapeCaption
Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

Credit: Daniel Defense

The ad showed a boy, maybe 4 years old, with a semi-automatic rifle in his lap, along with a Bible passage: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Daniel Defense likes to snag the awareness of someone who might fork over $2,000 for one of the company’s lethal wares. I get the company’s thinking: The gun business is a rough industry with a lot of competition and high profits to be had.

Use what you can to reel ‘em in, my old advertising professor would say. And why not employ religion? There was lots of killing in the Old Testament, even without the benefit of semi-automatic rifles.

Daniel Defense was in the crosshairs of Congress last week when its CEO and founder, Marty Daniel, was called to testify. Daniel was there because his company’s guns were used in an offensive manner in Uvalde and were also part of the arsenal in the Las Vegas hotel room of the whacko who killed 60 people at a concert in 2017. Hundreds more were wounded.

Daniel lived up to the company’s name by being on the defensive from the start of the hearing, as members of Congress did their best to try to move him from his talking points.

“Lately, many Americans, myself included, have witnessed an erosion of personal responsibility in our country and in our culture,” he said. “Mass shootings were all but unheard of just a few decades ago. So what changed? Not the firearms. They are substantially the same as those manufactured over 100 years ago. I believe our nation’s response needs to focus not on the type of gun but on the type of persons who are likely to commit mass shootings.”

Actually, there are an estimated 20 million-plus AR-15-style weapons in the U.S, far more than double than the amount (8.5 million) when an “assault rifle” ban expired in 2004.

It is increasingly the choice of misfits bent on mass slaughter. Sure, someone can kill with a shotgun or pistol or a pickup truck (as one reader recently put it to me), but they are nowhere near as efficient. Pulverized children are a testament to that.

Daniel Defense has brought in $528 million in revenue from the sale of AR-15-style rifles during the years 2012-2021, according to a Congressional report. That bonanza allowed the company to build a massive new manufacturing center near Savannah. In fact, the gun industry’s revenue soared after the Sandy Hook school mass killing in 2012, as a segment of the population feared then President Barack Obama would take their guns.

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Marty Daniel, the founder and chief executive of gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, testifies remotely during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on July 27, 2022, about the industry's impact on gun violence, as seen in this screenshot.

Credit: Screenshot via U.S. House

Marty Daniel, the founder and chief executive of gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, testifies remotely during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on July 27, 2022, about the industry's impact on gun violence, as seen in this screenshot.

Credit: Screenshot via U.S. House

Combined ShapeCaption
Marty Daniel, the founder and chief executive of gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, testifies remotely during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on July 27, 2022, about the industry's impact on gun violence, as seen in this screenshot.

Credit: Screenshot via U.S. House

Credit: Screenshot via U.S. House

Rep. Carolyn Mahoney reminded Daniel that he spoke about responsibility and asked if he felt any himself. Nah, it was the “murderers’” fault, he said, later adding, “I believe that these murders are local problems that have to be solved locally.”

He ventured that schools must “harden” their security and allow faculty and staff to start packing.

I contacted the company to see if Daniel had any other “local” solutions. There was no response. After Uvalde, the company lowered its flag to half mast, issued a “thoughts and prayers” and ducked out of a gun convention. I suppose that’s as good as it gets from that end.

He also noted that “gun-free zones” encourage gunmen (it’s almost always men) to have a go at it. He noted the heroic actions of Elisjsha Dicken, who killed a mass shooter in a mall near Indianapolis, saving many lives. In that case, the killer, who carried an AR-15-type gun, murdered three and wounded two. Dicken had a pistol.

It was the ‘good guy with a gun” come to life. Although for every Elisjsha Dicken, there are many like Richard Sigman. He’s the former college lecturer accused of killing an 18-year-old girl who was sitting in a car in a Carrollton parking garage. Police say Sigman was booted out of a pizza joint after arguing with a man and threatening to shoot him. Sigman no doubt thought of himself as a good guy.

Daniel’s company is big on touting the ability to defend yourself and your castle with its expensive long guns. That was the tone of the commercial the company wanted to air on the 2014 Super Bowl. The NFL turned down the ad, saving the company $600,000 in advertising cost and giving it millions of dollars worth of free outrage publicity.

Just like they wanted.